General components of extensive reading
In their book, Richard Day and Julian Bamford state that extensive reading "aims to get students reading in the second language and liking it" (1998, p. 6). In addition, they list 10 principles for extensive reading:
The reading material is easy.
A variety of reading material on a wide range of topics must be available.
Learners choose what they want to read.
Learners read as much as possible.
The purpose of reading is usually related to pleasure, information, and general understanding.
Reading is it's own reward.
Reading speed is usually faster rather than slower.
Reading is individual and silent.
Teachers orient and guide their students.
The teacher is a role model of a reader.
(Day & Bamford, 2002)
Now, these principles were written for classes who want to incorporate extensive reading into their lessons, but there are some useful takeaways for anyone. It is generally agreed that the extensive material should be easy. Ideally, everyone would like to have a variety of reading materials as well. Just because one person likes mystery books does not mean the next person will. Generally, you should be reading as much as possible. If that means you can only read 20 minutes a week, that's okay. All that matters is that you're reading as much as you can. Also, make sure what you are reading is enjoyable. If you're not liking the book, stop reading it! Extensive reading is supposed to be fun, so if you're pushing yourself to read, then it won't be fun. This way, reading can be rewarding.
How does extensive reading help me?
First and foremost, extensive reading usually increases a language learner's motivation and improve their attitudes towards learning English (Al-Homoud & Schmitt, 2009; Arnold, 2009; Grabe, 2009; Hagley, 2017, and many more). Additionally, people who do extensive reading may improve reading speed, fluency, and comprehension. Basically, extensive reading helps you become a better reader.
How do I do extensive reading?
Let's break it down into some simple steps:
- Find resources that have a lot of books for you to read (websites, libraries, stores).
- Try reading the first page of a few books to see which book fits your level. You should need to know 98% of the words on the page.
- Read. Read. Read.
- When you feel you are too comfortable with a certain level, go up one level.
- Read. Read. Read.
Want to know more about extensive reading? Check out Extensive Reading Central. They have good explanations of extensive reading, along with a lot of reading material.
Al-Homoud, F. & Schmitt, N. (2009). Extensive reading in a challenging environment: a comparison of extensive and intensive reading approaches in Saudi Arabia. Language Teaching Research, 13(4), 383-401.
Arnold, N. (2009). Online extensive reading for advanced foreign language learners: An evaluation study. Foreign Language Annals, 42(2), 340-366.
Day, R. R. & Bamford, J. (2002). Top ten principles for teaching extensive reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 14(2), 136-141.
Day, R. R & Bamford, J. (1998). Extensive reading in the second language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grabe, W. (2009). Reading in a second language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hagley, E. (2017). Extensive graded reading with engineering students: Effects and outcomes. Reading in a Foreign Language, 29(2), 203-217.